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Against the Odds: Lithoform Engine Combo (Standard)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 257 of Against the Odds. Zendikar Rising is here, which means it's time to kick off our Against the Odds exploration of the format with a special episode! What card gets the honor of being the first Against the Odds card from the set? Lithoform Engine! While being able to copy anything makes the artifact an easy staple in Commander, it can also do some really interesting things in Standard. Our deck today isn't just playing Lithoform Engine for value. Instead, we're trying to use the artifact to go infinite(ish) by making a ton of mana and then tapping and untapping it a bunch of times with a spell on the stack. The end result is a really janky and expensive but Standard-legal version of Splinter Twin, where, when things go well, we can make a massive board of hundreds of hasty attackers and kill our opponent with one big attack! How can Lithoform Engine go infinite(ish) in Standard? What are the odds of winning with a combo deck built around the artifact? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Lithoform Engine Combo

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The Deck

While playing Lithoform Engine for value to copy creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers or random spells sounds sweet, our goal today is a bit different. Rather than grinding out incremental value with the artifact, we're looking to turn it into a devastating, Splinter Twin–esque combo piece where, when the stars align, we can use the artifact to make hundreds of hasty attackers, draw our deck, and even bounce all of our opponent's non-land permanents all in one majestic turn! How can we combo off with Lithoform Engine? Let's walk through the steps!

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Lithoform Engine is the centerpiece of our deck, with its ability to copy an instant or sorcery for three mana or a permanent for four mana being the key to our combo. The downside of Lithoform Engine is that it is relatively expensive to activate, and doubly so if we are going to try to activate it a bunch of times in the same turn, which means our combo is extremely mana intensive. There is good news, however. Outside of our combo (which we'll talk about momentarily), Lithoform Engine can also help us generate mana by copying ramp spells or even Fabled Passage's activated ability to let us tutor up two lands, instead of just one, to help us get the mana we need to combo off. 

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Combo piece number two is Corridor Monitor, which allows us to untap Lithoform Engine, which is what gives the deck its Splinter Twin–like feel. The idea is that we can cast Corridor Monitor, copy it with Lithoform Engine, let the copy enter the battlefield to untap Lithoform Engine while the original is still on the stack, and then immediately copy Corridor Monitor again to repeat the process. The end result is that for every four mana we can make, we can get a copy of Corridor Monitor. If we can make enough mana (and we have some tricks to make a ton of mana), we can literally make hundreds of Corridor Monitors, give them haste, and kill our opponent with a massive 1/4 attack.

Sublime Epiphany can replace Corridor Monitor in the combo if we already have a Corridor Monitor on the battlefield, and the results are even more spectacular. We can cast Sublime Epiphany, copy it with Lithoform Engine for just three mana, bounce one of our opponent's things, draw a card, and copy Corridor Monitor to untap Lithoform Engine, all while the original copy of Sublime Epiphany is still on the stack. Once Lithoform Engine untaps, we can again copy Sublime Epiphany and do the same thing again. With enough mana, we will end up not just making a ridiculous number of Corridor Monitors but also bouncing all of our opponent's non-land permanents and drawing us through our deck until we eventually find a Tuktuk Rubblefort to give our team haste and attack for lethal.

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Speaking of Tuktuk Rubblefort, the haste Wall does two things in our deck. First, it gives all of our Corridor Monitors haste after we combo off so we can attack for lethal right away, rather than allowing our opponent to untap. Second, it helps with our mana production, and for our combo to work, we need as much mana as possible...

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While we do have some early-game ramp spells to help get to Lithoform Engine and our other expensive combo pieces (Lotus Cobra, Cultivate, and Solemn Simulacrum, which can be a good value-copy target for Lithoform Engine), when it comes to making the truly absurd amount of mana we need to combo off, we turn to Nyxbloom Ancient and Ashaya, Soul of the Wild. Nyxbloom Ancient lets all of our mana sources tap for three mana instead of one. More importantly, the ability stacks, so things get even crazier if we can use Lithoform Engine to get multiple Nyxbloom Ancients on the battlefield. With two Nyxbloom Ancients, everything taps for nine mana. With three, everything taps for 27, and if we get four or five Nyxbloom Ancients on the battlefield, a single land (or creature) can tap for hundreds of mana, giving us more than enough to make a lethal board of Corridor Monitors or to draw our deck with Sublime Epiphany

Meanwhile, Ashaya, Soul of the Wild turns all of our non-token creatures into Forests, which means we can tap our non-token creatures for mana and get tons of mana if we have a few Nyxbloom Ancients on the battlefield. Toss in haste from Tuktuk Rubblefort so we can immediately tap the creatures that we cast right away, and suddenly, mana isn't a problem anymore, even though we can use hundreds of mana to support our combo.

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Lotus Cobra, Cultivate, and Solemn Simulacrum help ramp us in the early game. The biggest challenge for Lithoform Engine Combo is that to actually get the combo started, we need at least one Nyxbloom Ancient on the battlefield alongside a Lithoform Engine, which means getting up to seven or eight mana as quickly as possible is essential. These cards help to speed up the combo, hopefully allowing us to go infinite(ish) before our opponent manages to kill us or our Lithoform Engine.

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Last but not least, we have Sea Gate Restoration and Turntimber Symbiosis, which are extremely powerful in our deck, in part because they are lands (which allows us to play just 20 "real" lands but have 28 lands total) and partly because we actually can take advantage of their spell sides with some consistency. Sea Gate Restoration is a great way to refill our hand and dig for combo pieces, while Turntimber Symbiosis helps us find our combo creatures like Nyxbloom Ancient, Ashaya, Soul of the Wild, and Corridor Monitor. Both are pretty sweet copy targets for Lithoform Engine as well!

The Matchups

By far the hardest matchups for Lithoform Engine Combo are dedicated aggro decks. While our combo is close to unbeatable once it gets going, it does take a while to get our pieces assembled and to get up to enough mana to cast them. While we have a bunch of removal for aggro decks in the sideboard, odds are that if we face Gruul or Mono-Red, we'll get run over a turn or two before we can combo off. On the other hand, slower creature decks and midrange brews are our best matchups. Thanks to our combo, we can go over the top of literally any deck in the format if we have the time to get things set up. Midrange and control decks (especially control without a ton of counterspells, which are good at keeping Nyxbloom Ancient and Lithoform Engine from hitting the battlefield) tend to give us enough time to find and resolve our combo pieces and pull off our spectacular combo turns.

The Odds

Technically we went 3-2 in our video matchups, but the record is a bit deceiving. I played against Gruul / Mono-Red Aggro a total of five times and didn't win once (aggro is a really tough matchup) but only included one of the matches since repeatedly dying to Questing Beasts, Anax, Hardened in the Forge, and Embercleave isn't really all that interesting. The good news is that the combo itself is as spectacular as we hoped, to the point where we eventually broke Arena by having lands that tapped for hundreds of mana and a massive stack of Corridor Monitor and Lithoform Engine triggers! While the softness to aggro means it's unlikely that Lithoform Engine Combo will ever be a top-tier deck, it's hard to imagine any deck in Standard doing more crazy, over-the-top, absurd things than this one! The good games are amazing, and in the bad (aggro) games, at least we die quickly!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Normally we focus on Standard for a few weeks after a new set releases, but since bannings might already be on the way, let's shift our focus to older formats for next week. Which janky Zendikar Rising card should we play in Modern or Historic? Click here to vote!


Anyway, that's all for today! Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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